Shares in Whitbread (LSE: WTB) have performed poorly during the course of the last year, being down by 17%. This is at least partly due to concerns surrounding the long-term future of the UK economy, with the introduction of the living wage likely to have a detrimental impact on Whitbread’s sales, and interest rate rises having the potential to dampen consumer confidence.
However, the owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn seems to be in a strong position to deliver upbeat earnings growth. It has a relatively loyal customer base and this provides it with a competitive advantage over rivals. Furthermore, with Whitbread due to increase its bottom line by 10% in the next financial year it remains a top-notch growth play that could benefit from improved investor sentiment.
And with it trading on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of only 1.6, there seems to be considerable scope for an upward rerating over the medium-to-long term.
Is Sky the limit?
Similarly, shares in Sky (LSE: SKY) have fallen by 10% in the last year. This is despite the company reporting strong growth in customer numbers and releasing generally positive news flow during the period. However, with the pay-TV and wider quad-play market becoming increasingly competitive, investors could be worried that Sky will see sales and margins come under a degree of pressure.
Certainly, Sky remains a high-quality business but with its bottom line forecast to fall by 6% next year, its shares could be hurt by relatively weak investor sentiment. Looking further ahead, the expansion of Sky’s services to include mobile could act as a positive catalyst on the company’s shares and there are likely to be major cross-selling opportunities.
With Sky trading on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 15.6, it seems to be fairly priced at the present time. And with it yielding 3.5% despite paying out just 55% of profit as a dividend, it could prove to be a strong income play. Therefore, for long-term investors it appears to be a sound buy, although its share price performance could be rather lacklustre in the short run.
Call to ARM
Meanwhile, ARM (LSE: ARM) has underperformed the FTSE 100 since the turn of the year. Its shares have fallen by 7% while the FTSE 100 is flat. A key reason for this could be concerns surrounding smartphone sales in China. With the world’s second-largest economy experiencing a slowdown in its growth rate, there are fears that smartphone sales could come under pressure. However, with ARM investing in other market segments such as the Internet of Things, its long-term future remains relatively robust.
Furthermore, ARM could gradually become a strong income stock. It’s forecast to increase dividends per share by 40% over the next two years and while it still yields just 1.1%, further growth of that nature could push its yield higher over the coming years and this may help to boost investor sentiment.
Peter Stephens owns shares of ARM Holdings. The Motley Fool UK has recommended ARM Holdings and Sky. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.